Friday, December 15, 2006

The Nightly News #1

The Nightly News #1, November 2006, Image Comics
writer/illustrator: Jonathan Hickman

As I was reading The Nightly News #1, I could hear the ABC’s 20/20 on the television in the next room, which created an interesting and appropriate soundtrack for a comic book about the mechanisms and manipulations of the media. I couldn’t hear the words, per say, rather the lilt – the melodic rhythm of the reporters’ voices, each rife with conviction, compassion, and a pinch of condemnation, not for their audiences’ ignorance, but for their apathy. “Department stores are trying to rip you off during the holidays! On-line shopping isn’t the discount safe haven you think it is! Why don’t you care?” (Okay, maybe I did hear a word or two.) Such seasonal doom and gloom is just a part of what The Nightly News conveys about the television media. Based on The Nightly News, if viewers really cared enough, they would pick up a gun and shoot Elizabeth Vargas in the head.

Huh? Well, let me start with the comic book. The Nightly News #1, for all of its complex, computer-generated imagery (which we’ll discuss shortly), is a simple story about a social sect determined to expose the hypocrisy of the news media, or perhaps to eradicate the fa├žade of the “news media” altogether, what with its world-changing ties to global government. An individual calling himself “the Hand,” working on behalf of an unseen force known as “the Voice,” executes dozens of reporters, and the police cannot locate or contain the sharpshooter in time to prevent this issue’s “to be continued.” Although Hickman insists that his is not a political book, the issue is littered with political satire and commentary that places this series in the categories of “relevant” and “informative.” I would venture to add the word “entertaining,” as well, as the author’s tone maintains a balance of humor in the face of the serious subject matter. Who ever said conspiracies couldn’t be fun?

The imagery I mentioned immediately elicits thoughts of Brian Wood’s Channel Zero, coincidentally another work about media manipulation. Hickman litters his book with small captions or comments that make each page a makeshift Where’s Waldo? of information, not with the frivolousness of Wood’s Channel Zero, but with a similar zeal. Hickman has a restraint about his format; his captions are noticeably meticulously placed, lines parallel with one another and the like, to imply a true sense of purpose to every visual aspect of the page. His hand drawn art isn’t phenomenal, but through computer-coloring and a consistent black/white/sepia tone, the package pulls together nicely. Nice to know that a comic book about media would utilize itself as a form of said media so effectively.

What interests me is the immediate draw to violence, which is often the crutch of the very media Hickman dissects in The Nightly News. Despite the Hand’s insistence that his is a mission of vengeance, in the end, I wonder if he will become the media darling he hates, the villainous superstar vilified and profiled and finally “caught on film” as a makeshift celebrity in spite of the public’s well established, justified prejudice and hate. By picking up the gun, isn’t the Hand doing exactly what the media told him that he, as a vengeance-obsessed elitist, should do? Maybe that will be his downfall.

The 11 o’clock news is on soon, and I don’t know how to feel about a few of the headlines leading us into the weekend. Christmastime makes for delicious vulnerability . . .

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